Detroit’s Historic Lafayette Park Receives First Lifestyle Community In 40 Years

Architects Design $45-Million Apartment Complex to Embrace Nature and Modernist Palette

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DuCharme Place, designed by McIntosh Poris Associates, builds upon Mies van der Rohe’s vision of creating a residential community integrated in Lafayette Park. Photos: Jason Keen. Click here for high-resolution images.

DETROIT: McIntosh Poris Associates’ design for DuCharme Place—a new, ground-up, 185-unit luxury apartment community in Detroit’s historic Lafayette Park—is the area’s first lifestyle community in 40 years.  The $45-million complex comprises four mid-rise buildings, with residences standing three stories tall above a parking/lobby podium base, totaling 188,500 square feet.  It is one of many ground-up residential projects designed by McIntosh Poris Associates throughout the area.

“We’ve been working on designing multi-family housing developments in Lafayette Park for nearly 15 years,” explained Michael Poris, AIA, Principal of McIntosh Poris Associates.  “DuCharme Place builds upon the vision of the park’s original development team by creating a community integrated with nature to support the existing historic district.  To respect the site, we wanted the relationship with nature to be a driving factor behind the design.  We organized the buildings around landscaped courtyards, while also creating street walls on Lafayette Street, Orleans Street, and DuCharme.  Every unit has great views and abundant natural light.”

DuCharme’s location in one of Detroit’s most venerated examples of modern architecture and urban planning—Mies van der Rohe’s Lafayette Park—inspired the architects to continue Mies’ legacy by choosing materials, such as brick, metal, and glass, that recall the modernist palette.  The contemporary and energy-efficient design features a terraced live green roof complete with lawn, Zen garden, fitness center, and swimming pool.  Exteriors include insulated glazing and cladding in a rain screen fiber-cement reinforced panel system with aluminum-framed windows with railings made of laser-cut painted metal.

“We are pleased to work with McIntosh Poris Associates to create DuCharme Place, offering world-class apartment homes and an urban lifestyle in Lafayette Park, a landmark historic community,” commented Walter Cohen, Managing Member of DuCharme Place.

Entrances, lobbies, and parking areas form the base of the residences and live green roof terraces.  A brick façade of locally glazed brick cladding marks the lobby entrances on each building’s corner, while perforated and corrugated metal screening and plantings shield parking areas.  This enclosed coverage system at grade level—inspired by the parking areas at Lafayette Park, which are outdoors and slightly hidden by a four-foot sunken level and shielded by hedges—allows for secure parking, easy access for residents, and protection from harsh weather.  The parking area design pushes Mies’ idea of hidden parking further by updating it for a contemporary Detroit, as well as draws inspiration from his pool-top podium parking at Lafayette Towers.

The four buildings surround three central courtyard terraces on the podiums.  Outdoor terraces connect through a series of bridges—an emphasized role in the relationship between landscape and form, inside and out, and public and private spaces—similar to Mies’ design at Lafayette Park.  Interiors offer contemporary living with wood flooring, light-quartz countertops, dark-wood cabinetry, gourmet kitchen appliances, and laundry units.  On the private terraces, residents may relax in the Zen garden, workout in a state-of-the-art fitness center, or go for a swim in the pool.  The live green roof is the largest for a residential project in Detroit, emphasizing the architects’ belief in the importance of a natural landscape and community—a concept influenced by Mies.

Similar to the park spaces created between Mies’ townhomes, Ducharme features a relationship between landscape and form around outdoor spaces.  Private balconies look toward courtyard terraces with green landscape extending to Lafayette Park, as well as views to the park, streets, downtown, and Dequindre Cut.  The site’s location affords a short walk to downtown Detroit and other attractions.  Bike racks in the complex offer direct access to the Dequindre Cut Greenway, an urban recreational pathway that links residential neighborhoods with Eastern Market and Detroit’s riverfront park, the RiverWalk.

The buildings include one- and two-bedroom floor plans ranging from 500 to 1,100 square feet.  With more two-bedroom units than one-bedroom units, DuCharme expects to attract singles, couples, urban professionals, and empty nesters unable to afford rental costs in downtown, seek more living space, and value luxury design in a more natural, quieter urban community.

In addition to DuCharme, McIntosh Poris Associates is partnering with local developers to design ground-up residential complexes in surrounding urban neighborhoods.  Current projects contributing to the city’s construction upswing include Floyd Lofts, featuring eight one- and two-bedroom units with open living spaces (to be completed in 2017), and 750 Forest, a 22-unit, five-story condo development (to be completed in  2018), both located in Detroit’s suburb of Birmingham, MI.  These projects add to the firm’s larger portfolio of award-winning multi-family developments, including 3909 Woodward Garden Apartments, a ground-up five-story, mixed-use building featuring 61 market-rate apartments; Eureka Building, a conversion of the historic, five-story Eureka vacuum cleaner company’s world headquarters into four residential lofts with a ground-floor restaurant;  Park Shelton, an adaptive re-use of the 12-story, 1926 Wardell Hotel into 220 condos; Genesis Villas at Medbury Park, a low-income, subsidized-housing community with 89 townhomes in the Midtown area; and 400 Parent Avenue Lofts, a former lumber warehouse transformed into eight, two-level loft units.

DuCharme is the firm’s second proposed housing project for Lafayette Park.  In 2003, the architects designed the Lafayette Towers Master Plan and Townhomes to further develop and strengthen Mies’ idea of an “integrated community.”  The development was to update the existing one-story retail shopping center and add 30 new townhomes.  Although the project received approval from the historic commission, it was never completed, but serves as an early example of McIntosh Poris Associates’ desire to enhance and strengthen the residential character of the neighborhood.

McIntosh Poris Associates served as architect and interior designer for DuCharme Place.  Other project team members include the City of Detroit and Michigan Strategic Fund (Partners), Sachse Construction (General Contractor), Clark Trombley Randers Consulting Engineers (MEP Engineer), Nowak & Fraus Engineers (Civil Engineer/Surveyor), and Zaremba & Company (Landscape Architects).

McIntosh Poris Associates is a full-service architecture, interiors, and urban design firm.  Founded in 1994 by Michael Poris, AIA, and the late Douglas McIntosh, the firm transforms buildings, communities, and urban centers with architecture created through dialogue.  Since 1994, McIntosh Poris Associates has won more than 100 awards for single- and multi-family residential, mixed-use, commercial, hospitality, institutional, and arts projects throughout Michigan, New York, and Ontario for private, public, and non-profit clients.